eHarmony's creepy attack ad

I saw an ad today for, featuring a little girl whose teacher met someone online.  She runs into her grandfather's office (the grandfather played by  eHarmony founder Dr. Neil Clark Warren) and alerts him that he met someone on "one of those other sites, not"  She goes on, "I told him it would never last. ... has made way more marriages than anyone else, and has all the hot babes."

This ad creeps me out for a few reasons -- top of the list being that eHarmony has a history of discriminating against non-white, non-conservative, non-heterosexual, and non-Christian people.  (Individually, not just people who check all four boxes.)  But also because it's essentially an attack ad against other dating sites, pushing to de-legitimize online dating as a general category in order to puff up its own status as the exception to the rule.

Also, I dislike ads that use children as props to represent purity of thought and simple truth.  See, for example, this series of AT&T commercials:

Eating the Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa is the most famous picture in the world, right?  I mean, it's one of the handful of paintings that I can't remember ever not knowing its name.  The Wikipedia page on the Mona Lisa quotes someone describing it as "The best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world," in the first sentence of the article. So, no matter how famous you are, no matter how much you accomplish in your life, odds are extremely good that you will never be more famous for any of those achievements than the Mona Lisa is now.

And there's an easy way to tell, as the title might have tipped you off:  If you stole, and ate, the Mona Lisa, that fact about you would annihilate the rest of your legacy as a human being.  If the President of the United States stole and ate the Mona Lisa, centuries after the fact, people would say, "Hey, you know the guy who ate the Mona Lisa?  He was actually a president of the United States!"  Pretty much no-one would say, "Here's an interesting list of facts about President Whatsisface:  Despite its passage, he vehemently opposed the Thirty-Second Amendment, he slept on the White House lawn for fear of terrorists under his bed, he once accidentally said that England was a U.S. state and that we'd seceded from Montana, oh, and he ate a famous painting called the Mona Lisa."

It's hard to think of people to whom this wouldn't apply.  If Tim Berners-Lee ate the Mona Lisa, people would say, "Hey, that guy who ate the Mona Lisa was also the guy who invented the World Wide Web."  If Queen Elizabeth II ate the Mona Lisa, people would say, "That woman who ate the Mona Lisa was queen of Britain at the time."  If Martin Luther King Jr had eaten the Mona Lisa, people would say, "The guy who ate the Mona Lisa was actually a very important civil rights leader before that."

Maybe, maybe, the Pope could come away on equal footing -- the Pope who ate the Mona Lisa, not the guy who ate the Mona Lisa was a pope -- but it would still overshadow everything else about his career.

It's very strange to think about it, but there are things in this world so absurdly famous that if you interacted with them too significantly, your life would be plowed down into a footnote in the story of that thing.

I also think this can be a good diagnostic tool for the present obsession with fame, and with narrative relevance:  I brought this theory up at a party with some college students my age, and several of them immediately agreed that, if their other life plans didn't pan out, if they didn't end up being famous for any other reason, then they would, as a back-up plan, endeavor to steal and eat the Mona Lisa.  Because being significant, for whatever reason, seemed more important to them than any other option they could imagine.  They couldn't think of anything about their futures that could be worth preserving if their bid at fame didn't pan out, instead choosing (or claiming they'd choose) to pointlessly destroy art of incredible cultural significance, just so people would remember it was them that did it.

There was an arsonist in ancient Greece named Herostratus, who, in 356 BC, burned down a major temple that was one of the original Seven Wonders of the World.  He did it because he wanted to be famous, and as a punishment the local authorities executed him and tried to outlaw anyone ever repeating his name.

It turns out, there's a whole category of people who have been wiped from memory:  it was a punishment in Rome called damnatio memoriaefor people who'd brought dishonor to their city.  Obviously it would be impossible to do this today, but it seems like a lot of people feel like failing to get themselves adequately recorded is a sort of de facto damnation.

I don't really know what else to say about this.  I can't in good faith condemn the trend, because I'm trying pretty hard to be significant.  Granted, my motivations for continuing to try aren't just "I'm supposed to be famous, that's how it works." But feeling that way, and feeling like my life only mattered if I was hugely important to loads of people, was a big part of why I started, so it would be disingenuous of me to pretend it's not relevant.

But also, it's really horrible and irresponsible, and I hope that it starts to deconstruct itself -- I especially hope that the idea that being remembered is worth it whether or not you're remembered for something good goes away.

Tropes vs Women episode 1 is up!

HOLY CRAP IT'S HERE FEMINIST FREQUENCY'S TROPES VS WOMEN IN VIDEO GAMES IS HERE OH MY GOD I CAN'T EVEN In May of 2012, pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian launched a kickstarter for a video series, "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games," asking for six thousand dollars to fund a web series exploring systematic sexism in video games. The kickstarter raised over 25 times its goal, and misogynists all over the internet freaked the hell out.

Since then, she launched the Tropes vs Women Tumblr, which over the last few months has been posting examples of hundreds of games that feature Damsels in Distress, the subject of the first upcoming video.

Today, the first episode of Tropes vs Women in Video Games went up:  Damsel in Distress Part 1.

I can't find any information about what kind of schedule the videos will go up on, but as soon as I know, I will report back.

I'm so excited!  This is the coolest thing that has gone up on YouTube today.

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1

I'm about to click on the first half of Atlas Shrugged in Netflix.  I don't know how long I'm going to make it into this movie, from what I've seen in commercials it looks like it's going to be unforgivably preachy.  But I'm also curious. It starts following a train in 2016, so, there's an optimistic view of the future of government oppression -- more public transportation.  We're out of gas and oil, so the trains are apparently a last resort.  But I'm betting the message of this movie isn't going to be "Trains are awesome."  In fact, one ends up derailing, apparently, right at the beginning because the tracks aren't maintained.

I was under the impression that the plot of this movie was supposed to be about government incompetence, but what it looks like is everyone-incompetence.  It's corporations responsible for the poorly maintained railroads.

It looks like the hero of this movie is a woman who proudly doesn't care about people, and the bad guy -- at least, the first bad guy we see -- is an executive who tries to avoid servicing monopolies and puts effort into areas outside his own backyard.  Pointedly, Miss Taggart, the heroic sociopath, is saving the day by going to a metallurgist who faces widespread criticism for his awful metal, who himself throws away appointment requests with people in a position to evaluate his work, on the basis that she studied engineering in college and is therefore qualified to decide that the metal is secretly perfect.

Reardon, the metal salesman, heroically squeezes as much money from her crisis as possible, and she explains that she doesn't have any emotions again.  He also heroically forgets his wedding anniversary.  He had already bought her a gift, though.  To celebrate the fact that he has a contract for his country.

I've gotten pretty sick of this, so I've decided to skip ahead.  I'm watching a YouTube video of a reading of the section of Atlas Shrugged everyone talks about -- the John Galt rant.

So... The point of this rant sounds like "Some of the rich people are the lynch-pins of the whole civilization, and without them everything falls apart."  And they're "On strike."

This ten-minute video cuts off in a way that suggests to me that it's not the whole rant.  But, if I may attempt to summarize:

(a.)  Popular morality is inherently destructive to civilization.  (b.)  The main premise of popular morality is 'people should be nice to each other, to the exclusion of themselves.'  (c.)  The alternative to popular morality is being rational, and (d.)  Rationality is inherently anti-kindness-to-others.

This argument sounds good, because all of its premises are really close to reasonable premises.  For example, take these alternate terms:  (a.) There are systems of morality that are destructive to civilization, (b.) One of the flaws these systems feature is an impulse of self-destruction in pursuit of others' welfare, (c.) We must therefore evaluate our moral systems through rational methods, and (d.) Reason doesn't come pre-loaded with any moral answers.

The conclusion of the first set of premises is "Everyone should be super-selfish, but think more than two hours into the future while doing so."  The doctrine of rational self-interest that is the main pillar of Ayn Rand's Objectivism.  The problem with that conclusion is that it argues there is a predetermined moral premise, that one should maximize one's material self-interest as determined by a zero-sum accounting of all the stuff that happens to exist at the time you're thinking this through.

The sort of similar, but much less overreaching, conclusion of the second set of premises is "A moral system that (a.) is interested in maximizing well-being for people, and (b.) is applicable to any given person who wants to pursue morality, should not have an actively negative effect on the well-being of its practitioners."  This doesn't fall into the same hole as the rational self-interest argument does, because it leaves the moral assumptions as they are -- assumptions that are outside the realm of reason -- but it doesn't therefore conclude "Thinking about morality is nonsense and no-one should do it."

Rand conflates acting against one's self-interest and acting in a way that serves the interests of anyone else.  It's obviously not inherently true, and fortunately it's also not true in real life, that there's nothing people can do that can improve both their own lives and the lives of other people.

I'd like to make it clear here, before I post this, that my point is that Ayn Rand is wrong; not that the inverse of Ayn Rand's philosophy is right, or that the philosophies she was arguing against are right.

So, this got away a little bit from watching part 1 of Atlas Shrugged.  But that movie kind of made me feel nauseous.  So, there's that.

Ads by awful people ruining the world

I've started a new Tumblr, because I have trouble weighing the investment of time against the quality of the idea.  It's a catalogue of the kinds of ads that make me feel a little bit of a worse person, just for having read them.  It's called "They Don't Want You To Know."

I've written a (very mean) set of tips for journalism students

I'm the copy editor on my college's newspaper, and every two weeks I get about ten emails each with four or five attachments of articles from the journalism classes.  I have to edit all of them.  (Well, that's not true.  Some of them I just send back with a big NOPE.) This week, I kept a separate file open while I did it.  I wrote out a series of tips, in hopes of passing it off to the teachers.

It's not okay to give to the teachers.  So instead, I've published it here.

Tips for journalism students and other people submitting things to other people who are going to have to reformat those things so they aren't a pain in the ass [NSFW language]

An excerpt (below the fold because language):

9. Check to make sure the pronouns agree with each other.  If you say "Everyone," you have to say "Them," not "Him or her."

10. When you're trying to avoid clichés, don't write the cliché but swap out one of the words for a word with a similar meaning.  It doesn't make your language sound fresher -- you're just generally replacing a shitty sentence that makes sense with a shitty sentence that doesn't.

11. No, but seriously.  The punctuation goes inside the quotation marks.  There are few things more goddamn annoying than having to copy an editor on a new draft of something because everything was fine but you put all your fucking periods outside their quotation marks.

12. You're fucking allowed to use contractions.

Youtube, ads, and national inventor's day

I didn't know there was a national Inventor's Day.  It turns out it was a couple days ago, February 11. I found out about this because I just watched a two-and-a-half minute ad before a video on YouTube.  The reason I watched it was because I was incredibly surprised to hear Ze Frank's voice on the ad, and I figured whatever Ze Frank is going to advertise for has to be at least worth listening through.

The ad was about inventors.  It's called Why Inventors Are Awesome.  It was for national Inventor's Day.  It was sponsored by GE.  I'm not sure it's changed my opinion about GE (they make a lot of stuff that I really like existing, but they're a very big company and that gives me an uncomfortable sense of 'what am I not hearing'...)

I just wanted to take this moment to talk about the fact that there are, it seems rarely but actually pretty often, occasions when ads benefit everyone involved.  This video, Life by the Numbers, and YouTube, both got money for serving that ad to me.  GE got my eyeballs for a little bit, and made me think about looking into them with a charitable attitude.  And I got a two and a half minute video that made me feel good about the world, about humans, and about the past and the future.

Textbook publisher sues librarian for pointing out that their books suck

(via Boing Boing) According to a public survey ranking 34 textbook publishers against each other, Edwin Mellen Press is the worst publisher of philosophy textbooks.  It's possible that may not be strictly enough to demonstrate truthfulness over the libel suit that Mellen has brought against a librarian at McMaster University, who wrote, "The Edwin Mellen Press was a poor publisher with a weak list of low-quality books, scarcely edited, cheaply produced, but at exorbitant prices," but it's not an argument much in their favor.

There are not many college students who are thrilled about the common practice of price gouging on textbooks, something I've written about before, but at least in those cases it's a shakedown over access to information.

Edwin Mellen Press has brought a lawsuit against the librarian for Three Million Dollars. For pointing out that their books aren't very good.  This isn't the first time they've done it, either.

I hope what comes out of this, if it goes to trial, is some new case law severely restricting the ability of textbook publishers to do basically anything.  Like, it would be cool if there were a law requiring that textbooks be sold at maximum a certain percentage over cost, so at least if I'm going to pay eighty bucks for a book, it'll be printed on paper I can't see through.

Slate's Spoiler Rules

I love reading rules for spoilers.  Working out an etiquette for when, and where, and how much it's okay to talk about art that came out recently, or art that isn't too popular, isn't the biggest ethical debate on the internet.  It's not the biggest problem posed by the changes in media over the last ten or twenty years.  But, maybe for that reason, I think it's the most fun. Slate is tackling this question specifically as it relates to the new Netflix original series, House of Cards. House of Cards was released all at once, today.  There are 13 episodes, apparently 1 hour each.  It seems to me that makes this show, as far as consumption etiquette is concerned, more like a book than a TV show or a movie.

Sam Adams, the author of the article, draws a distinction between "Push" and "Pull" messaging that I hadn't thought much about before, and that I really like.  Posting on Twitter or putting a spoiler in a headline is a push.  writing in the middle of an article or deep in a comment thread is a pull.  I feel I was intuitively aware of this difference, but it's nice to see it spelled out.

The usual discussion of expiration dates turns up in the form of "by next Thursday, it’s fair to expect that those who care most about not having any detail of House of Cards revealed in advance will have worked their way through the entire thing."

The other two bits are just basic rules about life and art:  Don't be a jerk, awesome advice, and great art can't be spoiled.  Or, great art can't be ruined by spoiling.  It might lose a little bit, but experiencing a good story is worth it even if you know how it ends.  Nobody watches a show just waiting to find out what the last plot point is.

Relatedly, Slate is starting a podcast explicitly about spoiling movies for the purposes of discussion.  Now, they're doing Warm Bodies.  If you've seen it, check it out.

Hanna Rosin AMA

I saw that Hanna Rosin, the author of "The End Of Men," was doing an AMA on Reddit.  I was a little curious, but didn't want to wade through the crap to check it out.  Fortunately, Slate has posted a selection of some of the questions, all neat and stuff.  I liked this bit:

BaduRainsDestruction: I just want to let you know that I love the amount of man-rage you inspire.

Hanna Rosin: I'm getting the feeling that it is definitely NOT the end of men at Reddit—that this is like the 21 Club (or maybe the Hooters) of online communities, one of those places where men still feel free to let loose.

Totallynotbb: I'm kind of surprised that nobody clued you into this ugly aspect of Reddit before proposing you do this AMA. In case you're curious, Reddit's resident angry dudebros have been planning to ambush you since last night.

Eliaspowers: Meta question: Did you expect this degree of hostility coming into the AMA? I assumed (correctly) that MRA would ambush the thread, but is that something you were prepared for?

I'd be interested in your thoughts on how things are going so far.

Also, I don't know how familiar you are with Reddit, but please keep in mind that you are being besieged by a small subset of highly ideological Redditors rather than the Reddit population in general, where there is more ideological diversity.

Hanna Rosin: I knew in advance they'd be interested but, uh, not that interested.

The link at "not that interested," by the way, leads to a post on the Men's Rights subreddit, where a bunch of MRAs were planning an ambush.  They linked to her TED talk, which I hadn't seen before -- they call it "Hanna Rosin Abusing her Children: ON VIDEO."  The clip is about 7 seconds of her daughter explaining why she sees girls as being more successful in elementary school.  The point of that bit was that men and boys deserve the kind of help and attention that women have gotten in the last few decades.

The video itself is pretty great, though.  Embedded below; Here's the link.

I was right! (about Denzel Washington)

I wrote a review of Flight last month, in which I suggested that Denzel Washington keeps tricking me into watching religious movies.  Quote (arguably spoilery):

But I think this is the second time in a row Denzel Washington has tricked me into watching a religious movie.  I mean, the commercials made it clear that this movie had a lot to do with alcoholism.  They did not make it at all clear, though, that it was about the struggle between drug abuse and salvation through God.  It was basically an ad for AA.

Well, Xan Brooks interviewed Washington for the Guardian, where he explained that he does, in fact, seek out particularly moralistic movies in service of a religious goal.

Sometimes he wonders if there is still more he can do. "I remember some years ago asking my pastor: 'Do you think I'm supposed to be a preacher?' And he said: 'Well, you are. You have a pulpit of your own.'" Washington gulps at his coffee. "That's not to say that I'm preaching, necessarily. I don't want to tell you what you need to do. I mean, I'm not turning it up to 10 when it comes to being correct, I'm not that guy, I like my wine."

He does, however, have a firm moral stance on the roles that he takes. Washington rejigged his Oscar-winning role as damned, dastardly Alonzo Harris in Training Day so that the character's come-uppance was more severe and admits that he tried to do the same with Whip in Flight. The film, he feels, lets Whip off too lightly.

It's a pretty good article, and I do still really like his movies.  It's nice to know in advance now, though, that if I go to see anything starring Denzel Washington, I can expect a lot of God, too.

Atari filed for bankruptcy

I had an Atari when I was a kid.  I was too young for it, really, Super Nintendo was already out when I got it, but my dad brought it home one day and it was awesome. Maybe nostalgia was already a big enough influence on my life back then that I cared about connecting with the history of video games, but I loved playing Atari.

Al Jazeera writes,

Video game company Atari SA said it has filed for bankruptcy protection in Paris and New York after it failed to find a successor to main shareholder and sole lender BlueBay.

The US operations in addition plan to separate from their French parent to seek independent capital to grow in digital and mobile games, Atari Inc said in a statement on Monday.

The US businesses plan to sell or restructure all or almost all of their assets in the next three to four months and are seeking $5.25 million in financing from Tenor Capital, Atari Inc added.


Atari SA said no investor had been willing to replace BlueBay as its reference shareholder and main creditor because of its French listing, complicated capital structure and the difficult economic and operating environment.

The company said it owed 21 million euros ($28 million) to BlueBay.

This news hurts my nostalgia bone, but the fact that the list of notable games at the bottom of the article is "Pong, Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command, Battlezone and Tempest," suggests that this company really is where it ought to be -- To my knowledge, Atari hasn't accomplished anything extraordinary lately, and a company can only live so long on nothing but a strong feeling that they deserve to be around.

Slate publishes a Science Wish List for 2013

Several scientists contributed to Slate's Future Tense column, asking for things they'd most like to see in 2013.  Some fantastic requests are extaordinarlily well-put, for example: Chris Gunter:

Former Nature editor Chris Gunter thinks scientists are the ones who have to adapt. She proposes including  “a new section at the end of traditional scientific papers, titled ‘outreach resources.” She adds, “If we can't explain our work to non-specialists and non-scientists, then we will never be able to effectively compete for funds, especially in times of turmoil, like now.”

William Conrad:

William Conrad, a pharmacology Ph.D. candidate at Seattle’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is also focused on publishing. “First,” he says, “make articles freely available within one year of publication; second, make peer review more transparent.”

And my favorite, Brian Switek:

We also need to recalibrate the balance between science and entertainment. “I want science to be re-injected into science television,” said paleontology journalist and author Brian Switek; “We're in a sorry state when [the network formerly known as] The Learning Channel's main claim to fame is a tiny prima donna hopped up on Mountain Dew, and Animal Planet is able to trick viewers into believing that there's a government conspiracy to hide Mermaids.”

America's driving fine system

I got a new ticket today, so I was reminded about my complaints regarding America's system of fines.  For the general premise, see this comic I saw on Tumblr:

As I've gushed about before, Sweden (for example) scales the cost of their tickets both on the severity of the crime, and on the income of the accused.  Here's an example, a world-record 1.1 million dollar fine, for a very rich person, driving very fast.  They had to get special equipment to catch him.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the amount of money I got fined ($62, rounding to $50 for convenience) is appropriate for someone at the lowest rate of income.  Let's also assume that everyone has the ability and opportunity to work for the lowest rate of income, full time: 40 hours a week at $7.25 per hour, 52 weeks a year, totaling about $15 thousand.

The fine, $50, is about a third of a percent of that.

Now, let's compare that to someone whose annual income is $400 thousand -- because that happens to be the group on whom we've just let the Bush tax cuts expire, so it's a good indicator of 'has loads of money.'

The fine, $50, is just over a hundredth of a percent of that.

If, however, we assume that the fine on the lowest possible income (in the weird parallel world where everyone has access to reliable, constant, legitimate employment) is appropriate, in the degree to which it's a punishment, and one third of a percent f annual income is an appropriate fine for this crime, the fine on someone who makes $400 thousand a year would be $1,320.

Now, I would ideally prefer that fines on the lowest earning citizens be lower, but for a number of reasons, the fines should obviously be scaled to income.

For one thing, it would encourage police to crack down on irresponsible driving among wealthier people, who can usually lawyer up and get themselves out of it anyway.  For another, it would increase the amount of money state and local governments would have as a result of fines.  (I think it's pretty easy to agree that it would be good if state and local governments had more money.)  And another, corresponding to thing one, it would reduce the pressure of police action on poor people, who are most in need of a break, because they're the most likely to be put in awful positions where obeying the law means giving up a job opportunity or access to food or any number of other important things.

Finally, it would encourage better driving on all levels, because (though the punishment would still always affect the poor more seriously) fines on rich lawbreakers would be non-trivial.

I'm pissed off right now, and there's not much I can do about it at the moment.

Amanda Hess: "Brats Come in All Ages"

There's an awesome article up at Slate, called Stop Internet Shaming "Ungrateful" Teens:  Brats Come in All Ages.  Amanda Hess makes the points I want to make every time I hear someone whining about Generation Y:

Plenty of adults say racist things, revert into ungrateful brats during the holidays, and demonstrate a tenuous grasp on world history. And yet these public shaming exercises tend to focus exclusively on teenagers. That’s partly because we see teenagers as redeemable, and adults as beyond help[, ...]  But we also criticize teens because we feel that we can control them, either by sending them to the principal’s office or just asserting our generational superiority over them. As one BuzzFeed commenter wrote, “Thank you Generation Y for making me grateful I have dogs and not an ungrateful brat!” When adults shame teenagers on the Internet, we feel like we can separate ourselves from American racism and consumerism by pinning the problem on this new, amoral generation. We all got out fine, but these kids? Worse than dogs.

This impulse to mock and distrust teenagers is so strong that some journalists don’t even bother to investigate whether their assumptions are correct before forever branding teens as spoiled jerks. And so adults have reflexively shamed an “ungrateful brat” who actually shares our distaste for ungrateful brats.

(Emphasis mine.)

It pisses me off to see the way people on the internet see behavior they don't like, and organize active hate campaigns to bottle all those people up into a convenient out-group that they can just collectively hate -- even if it's their own generation.  This article doesn't dwell on it, but there's no shortage of teenagers and twentysomethings who whine about their own generation, begging for approval by the grown-ups and an exclusion from the people who happen to be born around the same time as them.

A creationist textbook's description of "atheistic evolutionism"

(via Boing Boing) Can we just talk for a minute about the ridiculous notion that "You can't get something from nothing"?  Few things annoy me more about the 'origin of the universe' argument.

How many people, religious or not, have direct experience of what it's like when there isn't anything?  None, right?  Because there has never been a time when there hasn't been stuff, but there were people around to observe it.  We've got no idea what nothing is like.

I hate the argument that stuff just can't pop into being.  For all we know, the only reason stuff doesn't just pop into being now is because there's already other stuff in the way.  As far as I can tell, in fact, that's what's going on with Hawking radiation, where the absolute nothingness created around the black hole makes space for particle-antiparticle pairs to form, one end being sucked into the black hole and the other shooting out into space as new stuff.

We do this a lot in human thinking:  we assume that, because we have intimate experience of one state, we can draw conclusions about a state that we describe as being opposite to it.  Absence is not the mirror-reflection of presence.  We don't know how nothingness behaves just because we know how stuff behaves.

That is all.

Are class schedules really necessary?

(via Dangerously Irrelevant) Shawn Cornally at has written a great post about totally restructuring the way that schools organize education -- getting rid of the schedule blocks, and just giving the kids goals and teachers.  It sounds like an awesome idea to me.  (I think I would have done a lot better in the chemistry labs he describes.)

What if we removed the passive course-to-course drudgery of the school day? What if there was no schedule? What if students were left with a list of coyly worded benchmarks targeted at creating quality humans, and we just waited to see what they could do? What if teachers were seen as mentors for projects designed to help students meet those benchmarks? What if the students initiated these projects and the teachers spent their time recording TED-style talks that would serve as inspiration and help students generate benchmark-related ideas?


A very creepy article about credit scores

Amanda Marcotte at Slate posted today about an article that went up on the New York Times website yesterday, called Perfect 10?  Never Mind That.  Ask Her for Her Credit Score.

As she nibbled on strawberry shortcake, Jessica LaShawn, a flight attendant from Chicago, tried not to get ahead of herself and imagine this first date turning into another and another, and maybe, at some point, a glimmering diamond ring and happily ever after.

She simply couldn’t help it, though. After all, he was tall, from a religious family, raised by his grandparents just as she was, worked in finance and even had great teeth.

So, this is the kind of article we're talking about -- the kind where a pretty date renders a woman unable to think about anything other than marriage.  The whole tone of the article reminds me of advice columns that dwell on differences in weight, idiosyncrasies in fashion choices, the wrong perfume, the wrong kind of smile, ordering the wrong food.  I guess, now, we have that kind of fear-mongering about financial inadequacy, too.

The article argues that one's credit score has become such a major consideration in dating that it's common for people to ask about it on the first date.  The NYT writer cites a website,, which has a comment on the front page suggesting that people stop kidding themselves -- "can u truly love someone with a 500 credit score? [...] the answer is no,[1. sic.]" writes jbubbly, the only person whose comments are featured in the recent activity, last updated 22 months ago.  (This website totally captures the zeitgeist, right?)

Marcotte's article in Slate points out the many ways in which this article is not representative of a real reality, it's just a paranoid inflation of fringe, antisocial behavior by a handful of people reacting to an oppressively financial culture.  Marcotte writes,

Of course, a trend story that relies heavily on interviews with a mere 50 online daters does not an actual trend make. While there does seem to be an uptick in Americans piously telling each other to focus on the pragmatic and financial when dating, most people—including Mitt Romney—reserve the right to priortize love when it comes to their own living rooms and bedrooms.

Christmas Puppies

My aunt and uncle and cousins have a new puppy.  It looks oldish, like they've had it for a while, which is good.  I'm glad.  Because it reminded me of Christmas Puppies, which are a terrible idea. It's a little late for this warning, but if you're going to get a kid a pet for Christmas, don't.  It's irresponsible and cruel to the pet.  Owning a living thing is something you need to prepare for as a family.  It's not like other Christmas gifts -- you can't put a puppy in the closet and leave it there if you decide you don't like it as much as you thought you would.

The same goes for cats, and mice, and chinchillas, and -- especially -- exotic pets.  The woman who sold my partner her hedgehog, for example, won't sell someone a hedgehog if they plan on surprising their kid with it.

If you really want to get someone a pet for Christmas, buy the dog bed or the water bowl and some food in advance, and wrap those.  Then, when you've had the surprise, go and pick out the pet together, in a responsible manner, from someone capable of educating you on the needs of your new pet.

We try really, absurdly hard as a culture to make Christmas he nicest, most pleasant part of our year.  There's no good reason to perpetuate the cycle of pets abandoned a month after Christmas every year.  (It's not worth making a holiday happier by creating a bunch of new, delayed release sad.)